What does it take to invent your own instrument? And when you do design your own instruments, does that change how you write music?
These are just some of the questions discussed during the "Making Instruments, Making Music" panel held in San Mateo, California, on Sunday, April 23, 2006, at 11am at the first Maker Faire.
Three musician-inventors discussed their work: Krystyna Bobrowski, Chachi Jones (born Donald Bell) and univac (aka Tom Koch), as moderated by Marc Weidenbaum (more info at Disquiet.com).
About 25 minutes into the 45-minute presentation, the three musicians improvised collectively. Following that, they took questions from the audience.
The sound in the hall wasn't great, in part due to its inherent acoustic properties, and in part due to the presence of a dozen or so pinball machines and lots of cross-traffic, but the audio on this recording, made from the soundboard to a MiniDisc recorder, came out OK.
Here are the bios of the three participating musician-inventors and the panel moderator:
1. Krystyna Bobrowski is a sound artist, composer and musician living in Oakland, California. In addition to French horn she plays acoustic and electronic instruments of her own design. Her collection of original instruments includes prepared amplified rocking chairs, bull kelp horns, Leaf Speakers, Gliss Glass and the Harmonic Slide. Bobrowski received her M.F.A. in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College and her B.A. in Computers and Music from Dartmouth College. She has presented her work in a number of music festivals throughout the US, Europe and Mexico. In addition to performing her own work, Bobrowski plays with the Bay Area-based, improvisation ensemble, Vorticella. Over the last few years she has worked on prototype sound exhibits for the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Currently she teaches and directs the Electronic Music Program at the College of San Mateo. More info at vorticella.com.
2. Hailing from Oakland, California, Chachi Jones has little reason to leave his home. As an electronic musician and editor for S.F.'s Robotspeak Magazine, Chachi (aka Donald Bell) spends lots of time pointing and clicking away at his computer. His unique brand of darkly textured, neck-snapping electronic funk is created in equal parts by homemade circuit-bent instruments and precise laptop composition. His music is filled with emotion and begs to be enjoyed, scrutinized and bumped from car speakers like some kind of Martian hip-hop. Chachi's distinctive sound bears the unmistakable mark of many hours spent in a bedroom studio delicately refining each moment of audio. More info at chachijones.com.
3. Univac is constantly searching out the detritus of trickle-down technological toys, digging inside for the elusive never-before-heard sounds that cause the designers of the original items to shudder. When univac isn't turning electronic toys inside out, he is a frequent collaborator with Big City Orchestra, the sound guy for Negativland, a Macintosh tech and father of 2 boys under 4. He has been bending circuits since 1995, and taking things apart since 1968. Univac's past creative work includes professional photographer, sound designer, musician, graphic designer, filmmaker, writer, performance artist, sculptor, pizza delivery guy, event producer, technical director and meat cutter. Univac is known by many other names including Prof. Werner V. Slack, God's Grandparents, Hoyt Shrimpfinker, bumpermeat, TechDweeb, AirSickBags and Tom Koch. More info at techdweeb.com.
3. Marc Weidenbaum is a writer and editor. He's run the Disquiet.com website since 1996.